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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cute Hyena cub?

I can remember coming across a baby spotted hyena (hyena cub) in Kruger Park when I was a kid and thinking with some surprise that the little guy looked quite cute. I was reminded of this today when I saw a few photographs on BBC's news site (click here). Let's face it - cute and hyena are two words not often used in the same sentence. But there the little fellow was. Just like in this picture below - cute in a slightly bear cub-way. Mom (or Dad?).... not so cute!

From BBC "Family matters to hyenas"
"Little fellow" might not be accurate. It is difficult to tell the difference between male and female hyenas. Their reproductive organs look similar externally and the majority of hyena species show little sexual dimorphism, with males being only slightly larger than the females. The Spotted Hyena is an exception to this, with females larger than males. Spotted hyenas are born dark and develop a new spotted coat. Younger hyenas have more spots.
As the BBC pictures reflect, these animals long maligned as nasty scavengers, turn out to be protective parents and accomplished hunters. Spotted Hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals and have been reported to be remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates (Old World monkeys incld. baboons) in respect to group size, structure, competition, and cooperation.
Hyenas are one of my favorites to see on safari and as importantly, to hear. There's something special about sitting around the fire at night and hearing them whooping and cackling.
Cute as I think the pups are, apparently looks can be deceiving. These pups are very aggressive and often kill their siblings.

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